The 10-to-20’s

For those who attended the workshop, I gave you a list of actions you can take to start learning the 3 things. Here they are.

  1. STORY EFFECTS. List 10 to 20 Stories you love. Then next to each write what you loved about it and what emotions it triggered in you. Finally, look at your answers to see the patterns. These are the effects you love, the ones YOU will probably find the most joy trying to create for others.
  2. PROBLEMS. List the main problems (threat, lack, mystery) for each of those stories. These are YOUR problem types, the one’s you’ll probably find the most joy writing about.
  3. INTERESTING CHARACTERS. List 10 to 20 characters or people you find interesting. Next to each identify what it is that makes them so interesting to you. Finally, look at your answers and identify the patterns. These are YOUR  draws. Use these when developing characters.  
  4. ROOTING FACTORS. List 10 to 20 characters your root for or against. Next to each identify what it is that makes you root for or against them. Finally, look at your answers and identify the patterns. Again, these are YOUR equity factors. Use them when developing your story.
  5. STORY PATTERNS. For the stories you identified, map out their story cycle (problem, reaction/decision, action, disaster). Your goal here is to see patterns of how the types of problems you love develop.
  6. ZING. For one week gather 10 to 20 zing each day. Hunt them on your own or a group. Try to get zing in all four areas (problem, plot, character, setting) during the week. Use a variety of methods. Look at the lesson on capturing the zing below and check out the zing hunting methods resource.
  7. POWER QUESTIONS. Start a list of creative questions that are productive for you. You will want to identify power questions for all 5 parts of story. Look at the handout for some of mine. Ultimately, you’ll ask yourself hundreds of questions, but there will be 10 to 20 that you keep coming back to.  
  8. TIME. Identify how you will get 10 to 20 hours to write each week. If you can’t do 10, try to get close.
  9. WRITE. Develop and write a story. Identify the day you will start and do it.
  10. CONTACT ME. I want to hear about your progress.  Please post your findings here.

There’s another part to this that has to do with text. There will be more 10-to-20’s that go along with it. Right now, when you finish the ones I assigned in the workshop, I suggest you add these.

  1. BEGINNINGS. Go to the bookstore or library and pick up 10 to 20 random fiction books off the shelves and then sit down with them. Pick up each and read the first two pages. Note which ones pull you in and which resist you. Identify the cause. Then see what patterns you can find.
  2. 3 GRUNTS. Find 10 to 20 short stories or chapters from different books. Read them over three or four days. Do NOT read them looking for problems, but just as you would any book you’d picked up for enjoyment. While reading make a note of any section where your interest flags, the writing or story is unclear, or you just don’t believe it. These bumps are what Orson Card calls the three reader grunts. They occur when a story is unclear, unbelievable, or boring (i.e. you grunt huh? come on? or who cares?). When you’ve finished, look for the patterns that caused this response in you. ***This is one of the key things we did in Card’s boot camp that made me feel like the mists were being parted*** 
  3. ENDS. Look at the endings to 10 to 20 novels or short stories that you’ve read. Identify which you enjoyed the most and which you did not. Look for causes. See what patterns emerge.
  4. SMALL BEGINNINGS AND ENDS. Do the beginnings and ends analysis 10 to 20 chapters and then 10 to 20 scenes.

Of course, you can look at anything this way–plot turns, magic systems, aliens, settings, dialogue exchanges. Get 10 to 20 of them. Identify which are interesting to you and which aren’t. And then try to see the patterns. But I’d recommend you start with those above.


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